We explain what Murphy's Law is, who invented it and how it is explained. Also, what are its characteristics and some examples.

What is Murphy's Law?

It is known as Murphy's Law or Murphy's Laws to a set of empirical principles that are governed by the maxim that "If something bad can happen, it will happen." This pessimistic approach can be applied to all kinds of situations, as a kind of empirical law on resignation to the future events.

Murphy's Law is not really a scientific law , nor is it a testable theorem. However, it may be inspired by the scientific concept of entropy , that is, the degree of disorder to which all systems inevitably tend , given a sufficient amount of time.

The Murphy's Law perspective, however, can be helpful in forcing societies and individuals to anticipate future disasters and thus take precautions in time.

Origin of Murphy's Law

The origin of this popular adage is attributed to Edward Murphy Jr .

He was an American engineer who worked for the Air Force of his country in 1949.

However, there are different versions regarding which situation was the one that motivated it, or how it was initially formulated.

According to one of the versions, in the face of an unsuspected error by his assistant, Murphy complained that "if that person could make a mistake, he would surely do it . The phrase was shortened to "If something can happen, it will happen" and was called by the name of Murphy.

Another version claims that Murphy himself was the one who invented the adage and that he did it in the following way: "If there is more than one way to do the job and one of them leads to disaster, someone will do it that way."

First appearance of Murphy's Law

First appearance of Murphy's Law

Murphy's Law was first publicly announced by John Paul Stapp , a captain in the United States Air Force. Stapp worked in the same laboratory as Murphy, as a test subject in G-force experiments.

In a press conference, the captain explained that despite the failure of the experiments, no one had been seriously injured because they had been guided by Murphy's Law, which urged them to take into account all possible forecasts . Thereafter the so-called law became popular.

In 1952 this phrase was reformulated as "Everything that can go wrong, will pass" as the epigraph of the book The Butcher: The Ascent of Yerupaja by John Sack. In 1955 the same statement appeared linked to Murphy for the first time in print in Lloyd Mallan's Men, Rockets and Space Rats .

Ironically, the law as we know it today was never formulated by Murphy . Rather, it is taken from the Laws of Fineagle featured in Larry Niven's science fiction novels . In them, a colony of asteroid miners had their own religion, which worshiped Fineagle and his insane prophet Murphy.

Murphy's Law Spirit

The spirit of this law, regardless of its true and exact formulation, points to a concept called defensive design  It consists of the anticipation of eventual errors or damage that may occur, since it is very likely that they will occur.

Thus, defensive design insists that all innovation be produced taking into account the worst possible scenarios . In this way, if they occur, there are already measures taken in this regard.

Explanation of Murphy's Law

Explanation of Murphy's Law

Murphy's Law reveals a trait of culture which is the selective emphasis on the negative , that is, the tendency to pay much more attention to the things that went wrong than to the things that went right. In some cases, only the negative is remembered, leading to the feeling that everything always goes wrong.

This is also one of the possible explanations for pessimism . On the other hand, it is part of the tendency of certain people to attribute events to some type of divinity or universal law. This stance avoids facing your share of responsibility for what went wrong, or simply the arbitrariness of the universe .

Murphy's Laws

Murphy's Laws are commonly spoken of as a compendium, despite the fact that there is no work or treatise that brings it together, nor a formal text to attribute authorship. It is a popular adage , to which many have been adding, by inventiveness or by mistake, examples, additions and answers.

It generally has a humorous and imaginary tinge , to the point of handling a variable corpus of so-called "laws." But there is no formal document that collects them or that stipulates which are the "true" ones.

The popular imaginary

The popular imaginary

Murphy's Law is an absolutely popular concept, in the sense that it is very seductive and that its origin is purely colloquial, not formal . However, an attempt has been made to develop some type of studies regarding its practical applicability as a universal law.

For example, the probability that a buttered slice of bread will land with the spread side down has been studied . And indeed it has been possible to verify that there are more factors that favor this last scenario, but none have to do with some kind of general law of luck or probability.

References to Murphy's Law abound today in books, films, and other forms of storytelling . It was the title of several television series in the United States and the United Kingdom between the 1980s and the 2000s. It appeared in the science fiction film Interstellar (2014), represented in one of its characters surnamed Murph.

Fineagle's Law

Fineagle's Law on Dynamic Negativity is a concept also referred to as the "Fineagle Corollary to Murphy's Law . It was used by John Campbell Jr. in his editorials for Astounding Science Fiction magazine between 1940 and 1950.

Although it was later taken up by Larry Niven for his space miner tales , with which he became better known, it never became as popular as Murphy's Law. Fineagle's Law, properly speaking, states that "Something that can go wrong will go wrong at the worst possible moment."

O'Toole Corollary

Just as Fineagle's Law is considered a corollary to Murphy's Law, there is a corollary to Fineagle's Law attributed to one O'Toole. It is an expression widely used in the virtual hacker community  . This corollary is parallel to the Second Law of Thermodynamics and says that "The perversity of the Universe tends towards infinity."

Examples of Murphy's Law

Examples of Murphy's Law

Some possible examples of the application of this law are:

  • Toast always falls on the butter side.
  • Crucial information on a map or plan is always on the fold or edge.
  • Socks go into the washing machine in pairs and always come out one at a time.
  • The other row always goes faster than one.
  • Lost things are always in the last place you looked.

Phrases about Murphy's Law

Some phrases of popular origin that reflect the spirit of Murphy's Law:

  • Nothing is ever so bad that it can't get worse.
  • Everything will work until you try to prove it works.
  • The bus will arrive as soon as you light your cigarette.
  • What grows the most is what you want the least.
  • New systems create new problems.
  • Those who live nearby are always late.
  • Toothaches always start on Saturday night.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring reliable sources and recommendations from technology experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.


Luke is passionate about fostering student involvement and connection. He studied psychology for his major and likes learning about the past. Luke aims to specialize in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. .

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